On Sunday, August 10th I rolled out of bed to prepare for a weekend race: the Summer Sizzler 5k & 10k put on by Fleet Feet in Chico. In this case I wasn’t on the roster to run, but had volunteered to help out instead. Volunteering has a nice set of benefits for me. In addition to the good feelings that come from helping out a local event and cheering on hard-working runners, I get to view the event from my would-be race director perspective and see what lessons I can learn.
I volunteered (via email) a little later than I had intended, but the Race Director was still in need of course monitors. She replied with an email to the volunteers, and I received a list of the course monitor stations along with the volunteer assignments. We were instructed to all meet in the morning before the race start, and she made sure everyone understood where they were stationed and how they should be directing the runners. The communication was handled well and it turned out to be a good idea to gather the course monitors together before the race. I know the area and so the directions in the email were clear enough, but there were several volunteers who needed additional information on how to get where they were going.
My station was an intersection on the course that the 10k runners ran through twice. They turned one way on their way out, did a short loop, and then had to turn back the way they had come. It was not horribly confusing, but it was definitely something that required guidance for the runners. Having course monitors stationed there was the right call. Unfortunately, there was one glaring omission: no course markings.
Course marking on a long trail run is something I think about frequently. I run my proposed race course quite often and I try to look at where the “must have” spots will be for marking the twists and turns. For a trail run where placing markers may involve long miles on a bike or on foot, coordinating the placement and removal will take some effort. However, for a 10k that is mostly on pavement, putting some chalk markings down or putting up a small sign should be extremely straightforward. I made sure to email the Race Director, so hopefully it can be easily remedied next year.
All told, I’m grateful I had an opportunity to help out, observe, encourage, and just plain be out on a beautiful Sunday morning for a couple of hours. All my best to the Summer Sizzler runners, organizers, and volunteers!